Apply for the Spencer Foundation Vision Grants program on transforming educational systems. (Up to $75,000 Grant )

The Spencer Foundation Vision Grants program on transforming educational systems is dedicated to investing in research that aims to enhance education in a broad sense. We have recognized the urgent need for innovative, diverse in methodology and discipline, and large-scale research projects that can bring about transformation in education systems to achieve equity.

About the Spencer Foundation Vision Grants program on transforming educational systems

It is crucial to us that ambitious research starts by addressing the challenges, problems, and opportunities within education systems. In order to encourage research that tackles this need, the Spencer Foundation is committed to providing scholars and collaborators with the necessary time, resources, and support to plan and execute a comprehensive study or research program.

This research should be focused on making a real-world impact on equity, drawing from various disciplines and research methods, and fostering meaningful and equitable collaboration with practitioners, policymakers, communities, and other partners. The ultimate goal is to transform educational systems.

To achieve this objective, the Vision Grants program provides funding for collaborative planning of innovative, interdisciplinary research on education that contributes to the transformation of education systems for equity. Vision Grants are planning grants that bring together a team for a period of 6 to 12 months to collectively develop ambitious, large-scale research projects with a focus on transforming educational systems towards greater equity. This program recognizes that visionary, interdisciplinary, and collaborative research projects require time, space, and careful planning.

The total amount awarded for Vision Grants is $75,000, and two cycles of this grant program will be conducted annually. Unlike many of Spencer’s other programs, the proposal for Vision Grants does not need to be a fully developed research plan at this stage. Instead, it serves as an invitation to envision the research needed to transform education systems towards equity and how that transformation can be achieved through the utilization of research evidence.

Teams are strongly encouraged to consider the individuals who should be involved right from the start of the research design process. It is important to think about how the findings from the research study/studies can actually bring about significant changes in systems. In Vision Grant proposals, it is crucial to clearly identify the specific system(s) that the team aims to transform and the strategies they believe are necessary to achieve this transformation. The proposals should also explicitly state the research topic and provide initial ideas on the scope of the study plan, collaborative process, and the team members who will lead the development of a comprehensive research plan by the end of the grant period.

While the Vision Grant program serves as a catalyst for research ideas and collaborations, it is worth noting that being awarded a Vision Grant is a prerequisite for applying to our Transformative Research Grant program (TRG) worth $3.5 million. The TRG program is specifically designed for large-scale research projects that aim to bring about transformative changes in education systems to promote equity.

Eligibility for the  Spencer Foundation Vision Grants program on transforming educational systems

  1. Eligibility criteria for the Vision Grant program require that proposals focus on planning research projects related to education and/or learning, involving scholars and partners from various sectors. Principal Investigators (PIs) and Co-PIs must possess relevant experience or a doctorate in an academic discipline or terminal degree in a professional field. While graduate students can participate in the research team, they cannot be designated as the PI or Co-PI.
  2. The PI must be associated with a non-profit organization or public/governmental institution willing to act as the administering organization if the grant is approved. The Spencer Foundation does not provide grants directly to individuals. Eligible organizations include non-profit private or public colleges, universities, school districts, research facilities, and other non-profit organizations with a 501(c)(3) determination from the IRS (or equivalent non-profit status for organizations outside the United States).
  3. PIs and Co-PIs can apply for a Vision Grant if they have an active research grant from the Spencer Foundation or if they have another Spencer grant proposal under review.
  4. Proposals are welcome from both the U.S. and internationally, with submissions required in English and budgets in U.S. Dollars.
  5. Please note that all recipients of Vision Grants will have the opportunity to apply for a Transformative Research Grant, which supports research projects with budgets up to $3.5M. Additionally, Vision Grant Awardees can also submit proposals to other Spencer Foundation grant programs.


1. PIs and Co-PIs are not allowed to participate in more than one Vision Grant proposal (funded and/or in review). It is important to be aware that this rule represents a shift in policy from the initial two cycles of the Vision Grants program.

2. Budgets proposed for this initiative must not exceed a total of $75,000 and should not incorporate indirect cost charges ‘in accordance with Spencer’s policy.

3. The duration of the Vision Grant cannot exceed 12 months.

HOW TO APPLY for the Spencer Foundation Vision Grants program on transforming educational systems

Step 1: Submit an Intent to Apply Form

The Intent to Apply form should not exceed 200 words and does not affect the review of the proposal. Its purpose is to assist Spencer’s internal planning and program management. The submission of an Intent to Apply form is a requirement to apply for the Vision Grants program.

Guidelines for Intent to Apply

Before gaining access to the complete proposal application, the Intent to Apply form must be submitted through an online application form, following the guidelines provided below. The steps for registering and/or updating SmartSimple profiles and submitting an Intent to Apply form are as follows:

Registration and My Profile

This application is designed for the Principal Investigator (PI) of the project to register and submit the form. If someone other than the PI will be completing the online application (e.g., an administrative assistant), the PI should register as described below and then share their username and password with the person assisting them.

If the PI has never used the Spencer Foundation online portal, they must register and create a profile by visiting and clicking the “Register Here” button. Profiles can be created by following the guidelines provided on the registration page.

If the PI already has an account, they should log in to update their profile and access the application. Whether creating a new profile or updating an existing one, we kindly request that the PI responds to the various questions regarding their identification, as well as their expertise in the relevant topics and methodologies.

Upon logging in, the PI should follow the instructions to provide the requested information on the My Profile page and upload their current CV (limited to 10 pages). The My Profile page serves as the PI’s online account with the Spencer Foundation, whether they are applying for a grant, reviewing a proposal, or submitting a grantee report.

Note: Any Co-PIs who wish to be included in the application must also register and complete their profile information.

Application for the Spencer Foundation Vision Grants program on transforming educational systems

  1. For details and to apply visit the official website
  2. September 2024 deadline

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